Saturday 19 April 2014

Joint Interview on Hybrid Publishing Part 2

This post was originally scheduled to run yesterday for Lucy's fabulous UKYA Day, but I ended up cutting it in half because it was so huge! Check out part 1 here. (And don't miss the OTHER brilliant UKYA Day stuff - look at Project UKYA and the hashtag #UKYADay on Twitter for all sorts of great talk about UKYA!)

I think one of the most interesting things about the last few years in publishing has been the rise of self-publishing to the stage where it's now seen as a viable option for many authors, including those who also have contracts with publishers for other books. I spoke to four of these 'hybrid' authors - Keris Stainton, Kim Curran, Laura Lam and Siobhan Curham - about the challenges and rewards of self-publishing, and why they chose to do it.

3. Siobhan, Keris - did you hit any roadblocks on the way to self-publishing? Kim, Laura - have you had any issues yet, or are there any that you're expecting/fearing hitting? Any advice you'd give to other people planning on self-publishing?

Keris: Only that I kept thinking the formatting was too hard and putting it off. When I actually came to do it, it was surprisingly easy. The main advice I'd give is to read Catherine Ryan Howard's blog/book. (The book is called Self-printing and it's slightly out of date - self-pub stuff moves fast. She's updating it soon, but it's still absolutely worth reading.)

Kim: The only roadblock was my own sense of shame in making the decision. I thought people would look down on my decision and see it as a failure. When in fact, the opposite is true. I've had nothing but enthusiasm and support from everyone. People in publishing know how these things work and that not every good book is going to find a home. People who don't work in publishing don't care who publishes it, as long as they get to read good books!

My advice would be to get a designer, or at least a talented amateur to do your cover. A professional cover is a clear sign that you are not just shoving any old shit up on amazon! I would also say get a professional editor and proof reader if you can afford it. (Especially proof reader as my attention to detail sucks!)

On that note of affording – self publishing will cost a little. But you should never spend more than you're going to get back. I gave myself a small budget and have stuck to it. Because otherwise, I'd have gone crazy and created an augmented app and TV ad and god knows what for the book. No one which would have sold a single copy!

Siobhan: Like Kim, I really struggled with the formatting - I am a bit of a technophobe and although I've heard that actually, once you get your head round it, it's quite simple, I couldn't get to grips with it at all and I got really stressed that the book would look rubbish. But then I found out that there are loads of people out there who will do it for you for a small fee. I self-published a free e-book for victims of bullying last year, called Finding Your Inner Cherokee (you can download it here) and I used a designer called Jane Dixon-Smith for the formatting and she was brilliant - her website is here.

Laura: I’m still in the very early days of things, so I haven’t come across many yet. I’m mainly worried that I’ll put the stories up and no one will want to read them – the short story market is smaller. I’m still unclear of the best way to market and ensure people who enjoyed Pantomime & Shadowplay will learn that there are more stories out there if they want to pick them up. At the same time I am really enjoying having control and being able to plan when the stories will go up, how they will look, etc.

I’ve been researching and learning a lot. There are more authors self-publishing so I’ve been able to get advice from them. I’ve also learned a lot from the self-publishing forum in AbsoluteWrite. Arm yourself with knowledge and know that it won’t be a totally smooth ride, but it should be an exciting one!

4. I started reviewing about 5 years ago and at that point self-publishing wasn't really something I could have imagined all that many established authors doing. There seems to have been a huge change in this over the last 5 years with far more considering it - what changes do you think we'll see in the NEXT 5 years when it comes to self-publishing?

Keris: I think the hybrid method is going to become a lot more popular. Like Notting Hill Press and Novelicious Books. Editors, cover designers and a promotional platform, but much higher royalties. Also I think it's something more authors will at least try. I don't think anyone needs to be either/or anymore. We can do both.

Kim: Self publishing is gaining more and more respect. While at the same time budgets in traditional publishing are shrinking and shrinking – advances are lower than ever and with smaller marketing budgets sales figures are dwindling. Which means that self publishing is now considered by many a 'safer' bet.

As for the next 5 years, I think you'll see traditional publishers putting out fewer books (I think part of the mess the industry is in is because they're publishing too much) but pushing those books harder. They'll focus on big sellers and award winners. I think they'll put out beautiful looking books, as a reaction to the growing ebook market. All of this will leave the midlist authors having to look elsewhere, which means more and more of them will turn to self publishing.

However, there's already a big issue of finding the good stuff from the dross within the self publishing market. And the model with any new 'trend' is that the quality will get worse first and then get better. So I can imaging more services popping up to act as curators of quality (the way the Amazon White Glove programme – which I'm publishing via – aims to do).

More online only imprints will start up with offer cover and editing services to authors. Sites dedicated to crowdsourcing the best self published books out there with grow. Bloggers and other independent review sources will become more important. I'm really excited to see how the power of word of mouth with become more important again, as without a publisher to push books, it will be down to people to discover them for themselves. (I can write a VERY long essay about the lost act of discovery!)

I can also imagine that just as with the music industry authors will make less money from the selling of their books and more from tours and talks, etc.

I think we'll also see more experimental publishing models, and people going back to the cliff hanger serialisations of Dickens and Dumas, etc.

And of course, as they've always done, storytellers will react to new technology as it emerges. I can already imagine people creating stories that are integrated into the real world with tech like Google Glass.

The downsides will be that there will be more copyright issues as without a legal dept to back you up authors will be more vulnerable to being pirated and copied.

But in general, it's a really exciting time!

Siobhan: I think Kim's response sums up perfectly why it is such an exciting time to be a writer. When I first became a writer you were completely dependent upon finding a literary agent and traditional publisher - and completely reliant on the publisher for publicity and marketing support. Now, we can do everything ourselves if we want to. It's still lovely to have the support of a traditional publisher - but publishers are finding it increasingly difficult to sell books, or even get their books into the stores. I for one, am so happy that I'm no longer dependent on this happening - that it's now possible for me to write, publish and promote a book all by myself. It is a really exciting time!

Laura: Over the next 5 years, I think the e-book market will only grow. And I think Kim has hit the nail on the head. I am a midlister at the moment, and while I still plan to trade publish and hope for a larger deal and bigger marketing budget for those books, I also think it’s good to self-publish on the side. I write relatively quickly, and some of my quirkier projects might do better self-published. I might not sell as many, but I’d get a higher percentage per sale and also regular payments, rather than one or two a year as is the case with trade publishing. For writing, I think have diverse income streams is key to surviving. Trade publishing (and all the side benefits that can come with it, such as film options, translation deals, etc), self-publishing, school visits, teaching and mentoring – all together, it could eventually build to a decent wage.

I also think that yes, self-publishing can really help the author understand more about the publishing industry, which at times can seem perplexing and confusing. By being involved in every step of the way, it’ll help our trade published books as well, and also we’ll understand more of what those publishers do. It does put more power back into the authors. If a book is turned down by a publisher, or if you don’t agree with the publisher’s view of the book, then you can walk away and still get that book into the hands of readers. That is a very good option, and I’m very glad it’s available.

Kim: That's a really interesting point, Laura – about how self publishing will help us learn more about the market. I've certainly felt as if I've looked behind the curtain a bit.

I've also found that my normally paper-thin skin has toughed up, because I won't have the barrier of my editor between me and the reviews (I normally never read my reviews) because I'll have to be on the ball when it comes to what's happening over on Amazon!

Thanks again for taking the time to talk to me, everyone - it's been brilliant!

Keris Stainton is the author of Della Says OMG!, Jessie Hearts NYC, Emma Hearts LA and the upcoming Starring Kitty. She self-published As Delightful As A Carrot earlier this year. You can find her on her website, her blog and Twitter, while she co-runs the fabulous UKYA website.

Kim Curran is the author of Shift, Control and the upcoming Delete. She is about to self-publish Glaze. Find her on her website and Twitter. If you want to join the blog tour for Glaze, head here to get in touch with Faye from A Daydreamer's Thoughts about it!

Laura Lam is the author of the Micah Grey series, Pantomime and Shadowplay. She is about to self-publish short stories set in Micah's world, the Vestigial Tales. Find her on her blog and Twitter

Siobhan Curham is the author of numerous books for adults as well as YA novels Dear Dylan and Finding Cherokee Brown and series Shipwrecked (second book, Dark of the Moon, out in June) and non-fiction guide to dealing with bullies Finding Your Inner Cherokee. (Download that one FREE here!) She will soon be self-publishing her backlist of adult novels. Find her on her website, her Twitter and her Life Coach and Mentoring site Dare To Dream.

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